What makes a particular performance 'great'? The Greatest Shows on Earth offers an address that focuses sharply on theatre as performance: as an event that can stir the blood, the spirit and the brain like nothing else. The result is a book about fourteen outstanding theatre events from a dozen countries. In discrete, production-focused chapters, work from Peter Brook's King Lear through to the Sydney Olympics Opening Event is approached by a team of international scholars and practitioners, each describing in print that which existed in time and space and, most significantly, within specific contexts. What binds these chapters together is the conviction that whilst liveness disappears in a moment, spectatorship can translate into documentation that adds something to a work's value ... even as so much else can never be captured in words. In wrestling with ephemerality and memory, The Greatest Shows on Earth does more than make a case for what makes certain theatre great, it foregrounds analysis with emotion and writing with the type of first-person engagement that is usually edited out rather than invited in. John Freeman lectures in Performance Studies at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia. He has written extensively on theatre, art, pedagogy and research for numerous international journals, newspapers, magazines, books, government and funding agencies, galleries, festivals and consultancy panels. The Greatest Shows on Earth is his fifth book.